Intercultural Communication and the U.S.-Japan Lumber Trade: An Exploratory Study

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Forest Products Journal

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Forest Products Society





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Aside from the commonly heard complaints about the lumber trade flow between USA and Japan (escalating tariffs, subsidies to industry, and differing product specifications), problems in communication may also restrict the level of trade between the two countries. The authors cite literature that inventories the common communication problems in intercultural business situations. This literature review led to semi-structural interviews asking American (n = 17) and Japanese (n = 14) lumber traders to comment on these problems in their own experience. The specific interview questions were pretested/refined through a written survey. The interview responses were analysed to assess how, if at all, intercultural communication hindered the US-Japan lumber trade. Most of the problems reported fell into 4 major categories: (1) the role of personal relationships; (2) culturally different time frames; (3) culturally based preferences that have led to different product standards; and (4) the flow of information. The long distribution channels characteristic of the trade may hinder the flow of information and thus prevent better communication, but these channels appear to be shortening. Furthermore, the Japanese importers and American exporters in this study have learned to adapt to each other's style to varying degrees.


Originally published by the Forest Products Society. Abstract available through remote link via CABI. Membership required to access article fulltext.